Scallops are fast food! These sweet, succulent, toothsome tidbits smelling of the ocean are too delicious to eat only on special occasions. Consider that one can buy a pound of frozen bay scallops for about $8 to $9: they are an affordable treat. Remember your last trip to a fast food restaurant?
Scallops are fast food. If you cook them too long they will become rubbery and inedible. Sea scallops are larger than bay scallops so they are often treated to a quick searing in a buttered pan. They are delicious marinated in a miso sauce and are ever so elegant on a bed of baby greens, crowned with a curl of green onion, and artlessly framed with a delicate sprinkling of the sauce.
Bay scallops must be very fast. Smaller bay scallops are usually quickly cooked in a fast stir-fry, or in a sauce for pasta, or in a soup. This recipe, inspired by Elizabeth Andoh, is unusual in that the little scallops are skewered, sauced, and broiled. The sauce is based on caramelized sugar flavored with soy sauce and mirin: something like the base flavor in Autumn chicken and chestnuts.
These skewers could be done on a grill, but I would advise using a jelly-roll pan or a cookie sheet with a raised rim: these babies cook very very fast and you’ll want to pull them all off the heat at once to turn them—perhaps it’s just that my grilling skills are lacking…
The scallops are fine served at room temperature so would make a nice appetizer or snack with drinks.
The many-eyed scallop
Can easily gallop
Live to see
Scallops: Swimming and Seeing
A scallop is a bivalve mollusk found in all of the world’s oceans. The adductor muscle (the part you eat) of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because they are active swimmers. Scallops are in fact the only migratory bivalve. They propel themselves across the sea floor several feet at a time by rapidly opening and closing their shells.
Scallops have up to 100 simple eyes strung around the edges of their mantles like a string of beads. They are reflector eyes, about one mm in diameter. Their eyes respond to light and shadow, but cannot resolve shapes.
Reflector eyes are an alternative to those with a lens, where the inside of the eye is lined with mirrors which reflect the image to focus at a central point. If one were to peer into the pupil, one would see the same image that the organism would, reflected back out.
Grilled Skewered Scallops and Stir-Fried Sweet Peppers
adapted by Tess from Elizabeth Andoh’s At Home with Japanese Cooking
and Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen
serves 3 to 4
- a dozen bamboo skewers, soaked for 1 hour
- 1 pound bay scallops
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
Rinse scallops and pat dry with a paper towel. Toss with the mirin and let sit for 10 minutes. Pat dry.
Melt the sugar in a well-seasoned cast iron pan (or other non-stick pan) over low to medium heat. Do not let it burn: stir and shake the pan until the sugar liquifies. Add the soy sauce and mirin. Simmer this glaze very gently until it’s thick and glossy.
Put the scallops onto skewers. Suspend the skewers over the rim of a jelly-roll pan, and brush the scallops with a bit of the glaze. Broil for about 3 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and brush with teriyaki glaze again. Broil for another minute or two, until the scallops start to brown. Brush with glaze again, and re-arrange the skewers to lay directly on the pan in the sauce which dripped down. Ideally, you’d aim to serve these hot, but lacking kitchen help I let the skewers rest in the glaze and come up to room temperature.
Vegetable Stir-Fry and Sauce:
inspired by Tori no Usugiriyaki
- A dozen mini-sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow)
- 1 cup broccoli flowerets
- 1 mango, cut into chunks
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- fresh-ground black pepper (about 2 teaspoons!)
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 4 to 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in water
Cut the stems from the peppers, cut them in half, then remove the seeds and pith. Cut into lengthwise slices about ¼-inch wide.
Prepare the stir-fry sauce by stirring the soy sauce, honey and black pepper over low heat. When it becomes fragrant, stir in the sesame oil.
Heat the wok, and add the vegetable oil. Stir-fry the sliced peppers over high heat. Add a splash of water and add the broccoli flowers. Toss in the garlic and mango chunks. When it smells delicious, add the warm sauce. Stir to mix. Blend in the slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken the sauce.
Serve the skewers and vegetables with fresh hot rice.
I wanted to have separate flavors for the scallops and for the vegetables: to save the work of making two sauces. In retrospect, I think the caramelized sugar sauce would have been sufficient…